Should Christians Watch Harry Potter?

For years, I have been asked my opinion of the Harry Potter books and films, but always politely replied that I had not seen them.  They were never really an option for my family in the first place since my oldest child was four when the first movie was released.  I was also disinclined to read the books or watch the movies because of the witchcraft contained within them.  However, with the huge build up in recent months about the last Harry Potter movie I have received more inquiries about a Christian perspective of the series.  So, I decided to “inform” myself and over the course of some very late nights watched all seven movies available on DVD.  I then watched the final movie in the theater.  Since I went to this effort, I figured it would be prudent to write a post about my perspective (not to presume that my perspective is one to be coveted!).

I understand that this post has the potential to be very controversial.  I have discovered people get emotionally intense over Harry Potter- both positively and negatively.  Some will condemn my decision to be informed by watching the movies, saying that is the same as if I said I want to be informed about pornography so I better look at some.  Of course, that is not in any way a fair comparison.  Others will also scoff that my analysis of the Harry Potter movies is not to summarily condemn them pell mell.  Many of you may be surprised and/or disappointed that I do not excoriate the series.  In my estimation, a rational and objective analysis of these movies warrants a balanced, albeit cautious approach.  I do admit, my thoughts in this post are my initial thoughts.  Perhaps upon longer and deeper reflection, my conclusion may be altered somewhat.  Also, my perspective on this issue may be hindered to some degree as I have not read any of the books.

The recent article in Relevant Magazine entitled “The Redemption of Harry Potter,” has caused something of a firestorm in the evangelical community about the Christian response to Harry Potter.  In this article, author Ryan Hamm states that Harry Potter is one of the most Christian symbols in modern pop culture.  In my opinion, I think that statement is overstated.  The effort by some to label the Harry Potter series “Christian,” is also an error.  Hamm infers that Harry Potter is a type of Jesus Christ, although is clear to state the sacrifice Harry makes for his friends is nothing to that of the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross.  Many are uncomfortable with the comparisons Hamm makes of Harry Potter to Christianity- and rightly so.  Many times the things we read in books or see in movies that seem to be comparative to Christianity are skewed.  For example, the “heaven” scene in the last Harry Potter movie does have broad comparisons to Christianity, but the lesson portrayed is that you get to heaven based on the good deeds you do- clearly not what the Bible teaches.

And yet, we must admit that a number of the themes Hamm lists from the Harry Potter series do, in fact, reflect principle themes of the Christian faith: championing the cause of the poor and oppressed, sacrificial love, and the obvious triumph of good vs. evil.  The loyalty, courage, and strength to resist evil are all character traits of Harry Potter we would like to see in our own children.  In other words, it seems difficult to deny that there are positive elements in the series.

Despite the good things about Harry Potter, there are negative things as well.  Parents should be wary about letting small children see the movies.  In each subsequent film the scary images, intensity of violence, and “darkness” increases.  The latter movies have a rating of PG-13.  The most troubling elements about the books/movies are obviously magic and witchcraft.  To me, the greatest problem in regard to this issue with the Potter series is not necessarily what we find in the books/movies themselves (Rowling never, at least from what I can tell, states the source of the magic), but in the spin offs generated by the series.  Evidence reveals that every time a book/movie was released, there was a spike in interest in magic, witchcraft, Wicca, and the occult.  These are very dangerous and most definitely anti-Christian.  The Bible clearly condemns the practice of witchcraft (Lev. 19:26, 31; Deut. 18:10-11; 2 Chron. 33:6).  Additionally, you can peruse Amazon and discover a host of books full of spells and other topics related to witchcraft that are connected with Harry Potter in effort to increase sales.  As Christians, and especially Christian parents, we must exercise extreme caution in ensuring that we our children or ourselves never get involved in the practice of witchcraft.  My advice to families would be that if they do choose to allow their children to read the books/watch the movies, they need to do so with their children and talk with them along the way.  If a family decides to pass on the Harry Potter series simply on the potential danger of witchcraft, I think they are rightfully justified to do so.

That said, we need to be careful of falling into the trap of a double standard when it comes to Harry Potter.  I have heard some condemn the Potter series, yet laud the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Yes, I understand the two series are not perfect comparisons, but we must be honest to the fact that the Lord of the Rings series does contain magic and witchcraft- and quite a bit of it.  Yes, the allegorical elements of the Lord of the Rings appear to be overtly Christian (although Tolkien always denied the books were Christian allegory), but that does not lessen the presence of magic/witchcraft in the series.  I was glad for my teenage son to see the Lord of the Rings because I wanted him to see the bravery, courage, loyalty, and sacrifice of the characters- not to mention good triumphing over evil.  Oddly enough, many of the characters in the Potter series share these same characteristics- as well as good winning over evil.  In addition, it seems that we could include the Star Wars series in the debate.  “The Force” certainly connotes elements resembling magic, yet people love this series for the very same reason they love the Lord of the Rings and consequently, Harry Potter.  Finally, I find it interesting that the same amount of concern and even uproar over Harry Potter is not also aimed at books/movies such as the Twilight series, the Vampire Diaries, and even Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place- all of which are centered on elements of the occult.

My point in all of this is that we should look at Harry Potter with balance.  There are potentially dangerous and insidious things that can result from fascination with the Harry Potter series.  Yet, there are good things that can be drawn out as well.  Thus, it seems that Christians need to follow their conscience on the decision they make to read the books/watch the movies and whether they will allow their children to do the same.  In doing so, we need to be careful not to pass judgment on our fellow Christians in how they respond to Harry Potter.  Paul’s words to the Corinthians about food offered to idols (1 Cor. 8 ) and to the Colossians about observing festivals (Col. 2:16-23) seems to be the guideline we should follow in this debate.  These were emotionally charged topics that, in Paul’s estimation, both sides of the controversy had a place of acceptance in the Christian faith.

For example, in our church we have families that home school and families that attend public school.  We have families that observe certain traditions at Christmas that other families believe strongly against.  Yet, the biblical admonition is that we are not to judge others who disagree with us in matters of conscience.  To the Corinthians and the Colossians, Paul said we are free to embrace the beliefs dictated by our conscience so long as those dictates do not violate the truth of Scripture and holy living.   It is interesting to note in both the Corinthians and Colossians passages, Paul makes reference to being “puffed up” in our handling of such disputes.  In other words, home school families are never to think they are better, holier, or more in tune with truth than public school families.  And the reverse is true. Public school families must never disdain those who choose to home school.  This is how the body of Christ is supposed work.  It seems this is a wise approach to Harry Potter.  There will be families who enjoy the series and others who think it dangerous.  Both sides appear to have merit to their arguments.  Thus, each one must follow their conscience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

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7 Responses to “Should Christians Watch Harry Potter?”

  1. Thank you Pastor Todd! I appreciate this post for several reasons. I saw the last two movies with my oldest daughter (12) she had read the books, and is very level headed about fiction and well founded in the Word of God. My other children will not see it until they are older and mature enough to discuss them, just like any other PG-13 movie. I respect the views of others that do not want to see them, but I also point out, as you did, that there are many other movies with similar issues. I will even ask, when is the last time you’ve seen “Sleeping Beauty”? There is some seriously scary stuff in there. haha!

    We must be careful to be in the world but not of the world. Thanks!

  2. Michelle Pollock Reply July 20, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    I read this and I really liked what I read…Here is a question for you, I know that it is only human to judge,he is saying not to but,do people really take movies like potter,rings,or starwars to the point of practicing those things? I know that there is whichcraft out there,but really? when I see these movies or any movies for that matter it is not reality…don’t others see it that way too?…I do not let a movie of any kind influence me in my relationship with God, My kids is teens, and our Oldest likes a variety of movies right along with books,but my husband and I have had several discussions on the influence that every has whether it be positive or negative, that is a choice we choose…I am not in a place to place judgement on others…our two older kids attend public school, and our youngest is home schooled, as a parent we have to choose the right for them…but who is to say what is right or wrong than God…I am not saying which craft is right, because it is not, the Bible says it is wrong…I just not understanding.

  3. This article should not be controversial for any born again Christian who is acquainted with what is occurring in the darkest areas of this world. My son-in-law traveled with a mission group in some of the darkest areas of this world. The presence of Satan was so strong. We see our nation and the world in general inundated by an interest in the Wicca (Old English for witch) religion. It is pantheistic in nature as I understand. They view nature as God. They do classify themselves as a religion. How can one seek the Light if they seek darkness instead? We teach our children to be safe, yet we encourage them to dabble in the world of the occult. One would say, “I do not encourage such a thing.” Well, I just feel we must stop and question motivation. Why is it important to seek that which objects the power of the Holy Spirit and encourages a power within one’s self due to the possession of some dark entity? I have questioned the students in this way. Why does this movie/book series constantly put children/teens in harm’s way and even to the point where their lives are lost? The following website was designed to warn of the danger of Wicca. I see little difference. http://www.anunseenworld.com/wicca.html

  4. Thank you for this article! It turned up in a Google search and as both a Christian and an avid Harry Potter fan, it immediately caught my attention. I really appreciate your approach to the topic, especially the points you made about other fantasy series that are not seen as dangerous but contain just as many suggestions of witchcraft.

    What I find so compelling about the Harry Potter series is that they are filled with themes of friendship and love overcoming and carrying Harry through evil and darkness. And frankly, JK Rowling’s portrayal of the teenage years is much more realistic than a lot of other young adult literature (Twilight, for one example.) Take away the setting and the magic, and the characters of Harry Potter could be the actual people you went to high school with, not the people the media would have us believe we went to high school with. They are real people that have real experiences and know the meaning of real joy and grief – they just happen to do magic.

    Personally, as a literature buff, rarely do I believe that refusing to read a book on the basis of possible or overtly anti-Christian content is justified. However, I cannot agree more that parents play a large role in initiating and guiding conversations about questionable material. If a person is too young or not yet mature enough to examine anti-Christian themes in literature without being poorly influenced by them, either they should not yet be exposed to that material, or their parents/other trusted adults need to be having serious, Scripturally-based conversations with him or her.

  5. I’m a Muslim and find this article and the comments helpful. Thanks!

  6. Thank you for this article. It really helped me, because I’m a Christian and I like Harry Potter. But my parents think it’s dangerous for Christians. I let them read this article and they agreed with me. Thanks!

  7. I appreciate your article and wisdom, and calls for grace between believers, but I was a little disappointed that you didn’t seem to share your definitive opinion on the Harry Potter books and films.

    This is an article I wrote several years ago, as the final book was just out.

    http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2011/6/7/on-harry-potter.html